The eight-day Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip last month was traumatic for all civilians, not least the students of Hassan Salameh School in northern Gaza. Every student has a dramatic and traumatic incident to relate, but those in the second primary stage, section ‘A’ have an especially exclusive story. While they were talking about their difficulties during the war, 8-year old Wejdan screamed as she stared at the empty chair next to her. “Sarah is not here! Sarah is absent!”
Sarah al-Dalou, was killed along with nine members of her family, including her parents, when an Israeli F16 fighter jet attacked her house; she was a student in Hassan Salameh School. “The Israeli military chief of staff feels sorry for attacking the Al-Dalou family home by mistake,” media reports said. He feels “sorry”.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Education in Gaza, Sarah was one of 25 school children killed by the Israeli attacks against civilians during the war. More than 300 students were wounded.
“Everyone has a story; a lost relative, a neighbour or a friend,” teacher Huda said. “Otherwise, they have lost their home, or know someone who has.” The teacher was affected badly by the losses of her students and the damage to her school.
Sarah’s school was partially damaged because a nearby house was attacked and completely destroyed. It was one among 50 schools affected by the Israeli offensive. The total cost of the damage to educational premises in Gaza, including universities and schools run by UNRWA, was around $4 million.
Almost half-a-million students in Gaza did not attend their schools during the offensive; around 5,000 returned one week after the war when alternative school accommodation could be found.
During Israel’s 2008/9 war against the people of Gaza, the Israeli forces targeted several schools, including Al-Fakhoura which was attacked with white phosphorous, which is prohibited internationally for use in civilian areas. About 25 civilians were killed when they took refuge in the school.